Monday 28 September 2009

Lobbyists can no longer serve on federal agency advisory boards

Norm Eisen, the White House Special Counsel on Ethics and Government Reform, has announced in a blogpost on the White House blog that the Obama administration is strongly discouraging the appointment of federally registered lobbyists to federal agency advisory boards and commissions. According to the post, "the President has made a commitment to close the revolving door that has in the past allowed lobbyists and others to move to and from full-time federal government service." And since appointments to agency advisory committees are made by the Head of the agency, the post goes on to say "We recognize that there are many registered lobbyists who currently serve on these committees as a result of a prior appointment. When these appointments expire, it is our hope that agencies not reappoint anyone who is currently registered as a federal lobbyist at the time of their potential reappointment."
According to an article in The Hill, one result of this announcement will be that lobbyists won't register or will de-register. At least 1,000 federal advisory committees report to the General Services Administration under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, and many of them now include registered lobbyists.

Improvements in library online catalogs

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting article entitled "After Losing Users in Catalogs, Libraries Find Better Search Software" that details recent changes and advances in online library catalogs. The problem has been that traditional online library catalogs don't tend to order search results by ranked relevance and can befuddle users with clunky interfaces. According to the article, this is changing because of two technology trends. First, a growing number of university libraries are paying serious money for sophisticated software that makes exploring their collections much easier. Second, several universities like Virginia, Villanova University and the University of Rochester are producing free open-source programs that tackle the same problems with no licensing fees. With an open-source system, a library can set its own relevance rankings and adjust them based on what users want.

FastPencil brings self-publishing to the internet

FastPencil may be of interest to authors interested in retaining complete control over their work - or interested in publishing their work but not inclined to clear all of the hurdles imposed by traditional publishers. According to the website "You shouldn’t have to ask anyone’s permission to write and publish your own book! We have removed the hurdles inherent in traditional publishing by combining amazing advances in print on demand technology with a sophisticated online workflow system."
FastPencil also provides lots of opportunities for social networking and collaboration, so that authors have ready access to a community of friends, readers, and partners to give feedback and assistance.
The FastPencil Basic service is free and includes book templates, the writing platform and social networking. Additional publishing services, including consulting, author and editorial services, custom formatting and distribution, are available for a price. There is also a handy "Book Price Calculator" allowing authors to determine the cost of printing their work.

JuriGlobe foreign law website

JuriGlobe is a website of the World Legal Systems Research Group, four law professors from the University of Ottawa. The site provides a free multilingual information data bank containing general information on legal systems, languages, international commercial conventions, and multilateral commercial tools. The site aims to provide practitioners with tools that might be applicable in a multinational practice, and to provide professors and students with an educational tool useful in the study of comparative and international law. The site provides data on the distribution of legal systems by various factors, including geography, political entity, UN member status, GDP and GNI per capita, and language. Information is presented in a variety of formats, including lists, graphs, tables, and maps, with some information available in multiple formats. The site also has a Bibliography of works about the concept of "legal system", the methods of classification of legal systems, classifications themselves, the interest that those present and "the controversies which they do not cease causing."

hat tip: Jean Pajerek

Friday 25 September 2009

New resource on EEO laws, cases and resources

The invaluable Legislative Source Book published by the Law Librarians' Society of Washington, D.C. (LLSDC) has added a webpage on Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Laws, Cases and Resources. It contains links to Federal EEO laws, and selected related CRS reports, Federal agency resources, nongovernmental resources, and U.S. court opinions.

Lawyers' Conference on Polygamy reports that today the first ever conference focusing on the legal implications of polygamy is being held in Utah. The conference is meant to provide a snapshot into the family, criminal law and constitutional issues that often confront "plural" families. The conference, Family or Felony? , has a full slate of speakers who will provide a review of past cases, including a massive 2008 raid on the Texas ranch owned by Utah's Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that put more than 430 in temporary protective custody. Attendees will be awarded 6.5 CLE credits.
Bill Paxton and Chloƫ Sevigny will not be attending :-) .

IT and Libraries

Inside Higher Education has a blogpost today that reflects on the relationship between university IT departments and libraries. The author is an IT guy who has his office in the campus library. He says that in the future the academic library and academic technology disciplines will be increasingly intermingle and merge. "Even if academic technology and academic library services remain organizationally independent, our daily work and strategic goals will become increasingly intertwined."

Hat tip: Elizabeth Ferrall

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Lawsuit Seeks Larger Congress

The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog reports that a group called filed suit in federal district court for the Northern District of Mississippi on behalf of five people, one resident from each of the following states: Montana, Delaware, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Utah. The complaint claims that their votes carry far less weight in the House of Representatives than do those from residents of other states, like Rhode Island and Iowa. The action challenges the constitutionality of the current interstate apportionment of Congress under the principle of one person, one vote, saying that by freezing the size of Congress at 435 seats for the past 100 years the interstate apportionment is now grossley out of compliance with the requirement of Article I Section 2 and the Section 2 of the 14th Amendment.

Microsoft Office Web Apps

Microsoft's new Office Web Apps will let you work between your desktop Office documents and the web, but it's currently in an invite-only preview - and the invites are long gone. However, it turns out that all you need to do is log into Microsoft's SkyDrive using a account (if you don't already have one, registering is free) and then upload any Microsoft Word doc. When the upload completes, SkyDrive will ask you if you want to join the Office Web Apps preview program .
Once you've joined, you'll be able to view any uploaded Word doc, Excel spreadsheet, or PowerPoint presentation from your browser in Microsoft's (currently barebones) online offerings. Word documents are currently read-only, but Excel docs and PowerPoint presentations are fully editable.

HeinOnline Tax Webinar

HeinOnline blogs that there is still time to sign up for their webinar which will demonstrate the new Taxation and Economic Reform in America historical archive of legislative histories. Barco has a free testdrive of the database until Oct. 8, so if you're interested in Tax you might want to take the free webinar.

Thursday 17 September 2009

Westcast - A day in the life of a case

How West attorneys process a case.

G20 transportation safety plan

The Pittsburgh Dept. of Public Safety has a website with lots of information about the G20 transportation situation, including maps, road closures, vehicle entry procedures, parking areas, and a video presentation by Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Lieutenant Joseph Tersak who explains the Plan's traffic restrictions in great detail.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Online newspaper archives

Wikipedia has a great page with a list of all (or many) of the newspaper archives in the world, both free and pay. Thanks to Vicki Szymczak for providing the link.

Innovation Practice Institute

Prof. Max Miller's Innovation Practice Institute at Pitt Law is diving into social networking. There is a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account (#PittLawIPI). The IPI was also recently featured in a story in the Pitt Chronicle.

Monday 14 September 2009

New Scholarly Calendar at Pitt Law

Prof. Mike Madison has announced the creation of a Pitt Law Google calendar that displays scholarly events around Pitt Law school. In his announcement Prof. Madison says:
"The purpose of the calendar is partly to help all of us keep track of the many scholarly events at the law school. The purpose is partly to promote those events to audiences outside the law school. Because the calendar is "public" in Google-speak, it is searchable by the Google search engine, and events at the law school will appear in Google search results. As much as I could, in creating the calendar I distinguished between events that are open to the public and events that are not.
The calendar includes:
-- Faculty workshops
-- Major "named" lectures at the law school
-- Conferences and symposia
-- Special scholarly presentations and invited lectures"
This is a great new resource for the law school. Kudos to Prof. Madison!

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Visiting Lecture this Friday

Justice Hassan Bubacar Jallow

On Friday, Sept. 11 at noon in the Moot Courtroom the Center for International Legal Education is hosting a guest lecture, "The Contribution of the Rwanda Tribunal to International Law and the Challenge sof Completion: The Prosecutor's Perspective" . Justice Hassan Bubacar Jallow, Chief Prosecutor of the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is the guest speaker. Justice Jallow served as Solicitor-General, Attorney-General, and Supreme Court Justice for Gambia. He has served as an international legal expert for the U.N. and the Organization of African Unity. Prior to his appointment as Chief Prosecutor for the ICTR, he served as a Judge in the Appeals Chambers of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

A reception in the Alcoa Room will follow the lecture. You can see the Event flyer on the CILE website.

New databases available on FDsys

The Government Printing Office has added eight new resource collections to FDsys (GPO's Federal Digital System). They are:
History of Bills (1983 - present) lists legislative actions on bills that are reported in the Congressional Record. In print this is part of the Congressional Record Index but on FDsys it is a separate collection. The current year's collection is updated daily. A typical entry includes a bill number, title, summary, names of sponsors and cosponsors, and a chronological list of actions on the bill.
Congressional Record Index (1983 - present) lists individuals, organizations, and topics mentioned in the Congressional Record.
Congressional Record (Bound Edition) (1998 - 2002) At the end of each session of Congress, all of the daily CR editions are collected, re-paginated, and re-indexed into a permanent, bound edition. This permanent edition is made up of one volume per session of Congress, with each volume published in multiple parts, each part containing approximately 10 to 20 days of Congressional proceedings. The primary ways in which the bound edition differs from the daily edition are continuous pagination; somewhat edited, revised, and rearranged text; and the dropping of the prefixes H, S, and E before page numbers.
U.S. Statutes at Large (2003 - 2006, authenticated digital signature), the permanent collection of all laws and resolutions enacted during each session of Congress. The Statutes at Large is legal evidence of the laws, concurrent resolutions, proclamations by the President, and proposed and ratified amendments to the Constitution.
Congressional Directory (105th Congress (1997) to present, authenticated digital signature) the official directory of the U.S. Congress. It contains short biographies of each member of the Senate and House, listed by state or district; committee memberships, terms of service, administrative assistants and/or secretaries, and room and telephone numbers for Members of Congress; officials of the courts, military establishments, and other Federal departments and agencies, including D.C. government officials, governors of states and territories, foreign diplomats, and members of the press, radio, and television galleries.
United States Government Manual (1995/1996 to present, authenticated digital signature), the official handbook of the Federal Government. It provides comprehensive information on the agencies of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches and also includes information on quasi-official agencies; international organizations in which the United States participates; and boards, commissions, and committees.
Economic Report of the President (1996 to present), an annual report written by the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. It overviews the nation's economic progress using text and extensive data appendices. The Economic Report of the President is transmitted to Congress no later than ten days after the submission of the Budget of the United States Government.
GAO Reports and Comptroller General Decisions (1994 to 2008) contains reports (“blue books”) on audits, surveys, investigations, and evaluations of Federal programs conducted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). All published reports, testimonies, correspondence, and special publications are included. Products that are restricted or classified are not included. The GAO collection on FDsys is provided as an archive of the content as it was at the time GAO and the GPO signed an agreement to provide permanent public access to the GAO Reports database on September 19, 2008. More recent reports are available on the GAO Web site.

hat tip: Jamie Keller

Tuesday 8 September 2009

LexisNexis Academic has a new Beta release

LexisNexis Academic has announced the release of the Beta version of significant interface improvements scheduled for full release in late December. The interface looks quite different from the one we are accustomed to - instead of just one search box, there are six individual search boxes for the most common searches: Search the News, Look up a Legal Case, Get Company Information, Research Countries, Research People and a Combined Search. Check it out and let them know what you think.

Google books

James Boyle, a professor at Duke Law School, has an interesting article in the Financial Times entitled "A copyright black hole swallows our culture". He discusses the Google Books project in which Google has teamed up with a number of large libraries to digitise their collections. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that in the EU, Google has made concessions to European publishers, saying it will remove all European books that are still commercially available from its $125 million program to scan orphaned and out-of-print books in the U.S. and sell them online.